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Setting Design Report 28: Antagonists, Part 1: The Black Triad

As always, you can find a link to the full lists of setting design reports here.

Meet the Bad Guys

Up until this point, I have been focusing on the places in Exadria and some of the more benign organizations. The one real exception to this rule is Grim Cities, but even those have gotten a grand total of three posts out of the 27 prior to this one. And if one thing is true in an RPG setting, especially one being used with some version of D&D, it’s that the heroes need someone to fight.

It’s also nice if the small-time bad guys one encounters in the opening sessions of a campaign can bite off more than they can chew every once in a while, and that is exactly how the Black Triad came to be.

If you read the posts about Lostant, you will remember that the villains of that arc were the corrupt Wallstone family. The Wallstones, while racist, lazy, and parasitic on the town, are not exactly textbook BBEG material. The fact that they’re rich jerks, however, meant that they could hire those people, and did. And that’s where the Black Triad came in.

A Violent History

The Black Triad, at the most basic level, are a group of dragonborn mercenaries descended from black dragons. In particular, they are from the general family tree of the dragon Ralathumicax.

Ralathumicax was a somewhat special black dragon. While he was every bit as vicious and cruel as a lot of other black dragons are, he was also much more of a leader and a strategist than a solitary apex predator. It was clear to him, even as a wyrmling, that he would get much more of what he wanted if he started working through intermediaries, and what better way to come up with intermediaries than grow your own? And so the Ralathumicax dynasy was born. Once he’d built up a good number of half-dragons and dragonborn loyal to him, he organized them into a mercenary company called The Gray Fangs and immediately started taking the nastiest, dirtiest mercenary work he could find. Ralathumicax found the concept of morality irritating and only behaved with honor when it was clearly smart to do so. For example, he paid his troops well because they could betray him and tended to stick to contacts because they could lead to future business, but he would not hear talk of “rules of engagement” or “noncombatants” or “humane treatment.” Over time, the Gray Fangs got a fearsome reputation as pitiless killers who could be counted on to get the job done, and the power, influence, and size of the company all grew rapidly. They eventually established a series of forts in the Delathun swamps, and that was when it all came unraveled.

Ralathumicax was an ancestor of most of his forces (though a few non-dragonborn mercenaries joined up over time) and his bloodline carried the same ruthlessness and lust for power that he possessed, so it should have come as no surprise to Ralathumicax that one of his officers, a powerful cleric of The Adversary named Olinjada decided she could do a better job running things and slew the dragon in a vicious battle that wrecked two of the forts and wiped out nearly a third of The Gray Fangs’s full strength.

Olinjada had counted on massive casualties and spent weeks raising as many of the fallen as she could as undead, including Ralathumicax himself, who now serves as her mount and is very much in her thrall.

The remaining, surviving mercenaries split off into several different groups and spread out throughout the world, taking work where they could find it. One of these groups, which has been known as the Shadow Kings, the Broken Axe, and the Bloody Claw as leadership shifted, eventually moved into the area east of Alchova and started taking jobs that pit them against the considerable might of the Grim City.

Just because they were fighting an evil enemy didn’t suddenly make them the good guys, however, and they quickly had almost as fearsome of a reputation as The Gray Fangs. The current leadership took over ownership of the company about 15 years ago, renaming the organization The Black Triad and sending a bunch of the more troublesome members off to the west under the leadership of an ambitious evoker named Hazorax and his lieutenant, a cleric of The Adversary named Tarhun. Hazorax and Tarhun’s troops were the ones hired by the Wallstones that touched off the events that began the game, and even if they were interested in doing so, they are unlikely to pick up the trail of the PCs any time soon, as they were stopped by the RRF from Maghali Da Bina as the PCs entered that city. However, Hazorax and Tarhun are still out there, as is the rest of the Black Triad and Olinjada’s undead army.

There is still plenty Ralathumicax’s influence can do to make things difficult in the world.





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